After two poor performances, this was a more promising display from Eastbourne but they were still beaten by a much improved Horsham side who used their size and fitness to better effect than the visitors.
Eastbourne can take some heart from this showing and if they can settle from the start, should pick up as the season progresses.
Within 10 minutes Eastbourne were 12 points adrift. Losing possession on their own 22 metre line allowed the Horsham second row in and minutes later, slick passing resulted in a try for the home full back.
Midway through the half however, the Blue and Golds began to play rugby and following a pressure scrum, Nathan Ring surged up the left flank and off-loaded to young winger Bettles who touched down in the corner.
Although conceding another Horsham score through lax concentration, an interception on his own 10 metre line put Paul Keen in for a full pitch race to the line and touchdown under the posts.
Indeed had a crucial penalty just on half time been kicked, the turn around score would have been 19-15 and Horsham nerves would have jangled.
Restarting at 19-12, the second half was a more attritional affair with Horsham in the ascendancy but Eastbourne showing occasional moments of flair.
Ring and Max Cheater worked tirelessly in defence and attack and were ably supported by Tom Redman and Joe Tobin.
Coultard at No.10 kicked intelligently to put pressure on Horsham and second row Turner grounded the ball just short but Horsham always looked to have the upper hand. So it was, with the athletic Horsham centre running in his second of the afternoon and on the final whistle, a touch down by No.8 to seal the game for the home side.
Eastbourne behind the scrum are a small unit and will have more work to do if they are to compensate for the lack of size. The talent is there and the self belief will come.
But it’s all stacking up to be a hard season in a highly competitive league.
Eastbourne: Keen; Everett; Cheater; Ring; Bettles; Coultard; Davie; Barron; Imich; Webb; Turner; Chilvers; Light; Redman; Tobin
subs all used Johns; Wilmott; Stratford
MoM Max Cheater for work in defence and attack
RIGHT: action from the game Pictures: Steve Payne